In early March, a nationwide college entrance exam cheating scheme was exposed, resulting in charges of fraud for dozens of individuals including actresses Lori Loughlin of Full House fame and Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives. Two ACT/SAT administrators, an exam proctor, and nine coaches were also implicated in the scandal, nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues by the FBI.
The scheme involved replacing students with other people hired to take their tests, correcting students’ answers after the tests, or providing answers to the students during exams. In most cases, the kids were unaware their parents were participating in the scheme.
University coaches involved in the plot were encouraged to scout these kids as potential recruits for their teams, regardless of any actual athletic ability. Oftentimes the parents would supplement this by posing their kids with sports equipment or with teams as false evidence, sometimes even photoshopping the kids’ heads onto athletes’ bodies.
Nationwide opinions have been harsh on these parents, with some people being shocked and angered that anyone would do this, and others being upset but unsurprised that the college system was rigged in these kids’ favor. I asked a few students what their personal opinions were on the cheating scandal.
I think the college cheating scandal goes to show what money can do for you, especially in our country. Millions of high school students work extremely hard and have to endure so much just to have a good college application, with a lot of them not getting accepted to where they wanted to go. For four years, that’s what’s on their mind. But for the kids with rich parents who write a check and get into whatever school they want? It’s shameful and unfair to those who work hard.
I’m from Northern Virginia, where a lot of the families are upper/middle class and many of the students at my high school are rich. The fact that I wasn’t even surprised upon hearing the scandal says a lot about what you can accomplish with something as shallow as money these days. It’s absolutely disgusting and insulting to those who didn’t have the luxury of buying their way into college and instead worked for something; especially those who didn’t even have parents around. But once again, I’m not surprised it happened because college admissions are getting more and more competitive (especially in my school district) each year.
I think it’s a tough pill to swallow for the students who worked hard to get into top universities. It sends the message that if you have enough money you can fake your way through an education and degrades what hard-working students needed to accomplish in order to get into those universities.
I think it's really sad and a prime example of inequality that persists in society. Where intellectual talent and skills are involved, financial advantage should not be differentiating factor. More privileged people already have an upper hand (whether it's fair or not) in accessing better quality education and affording more prestigious colleges. Just being rich or having an elite family name should not be a golden ticket when there are less privileged but equally or more intelligent persons deserving of a fair chance.
These and other students have taken to social media like Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr to express their disappointment or confusion with parents and students who cheated to get ahead, and the collegial structures that allowed this to happen. Perhaps college admissions will change in light of the scandal and use this opportunity to reflect on how they evaluate a prospective student. Whether they do or not, conversations about what should truly count most for a student to get into college are far from over.
Lilia Taylor is 21 years old, studying English and Marketing at New Mexico State University. She hopes to have a job involving books someday, loves the smell of coffee (not so much the taste) and tries to get outside whenever she can.